In 1914, my father was drafted into the Ottoman army from the village of Hadji-Habibli, Moussa Dagh region. My young mother could not climb the mountain with her three small children and we ended up in a caravan of exiles into the deserts of Arabia. I remember the Turkish gendarmes came with whips in their hands and drove us forward by whipping and beating us to Der-Zor. They beat so much that an old man fell down and died. There were many people. There were Armenians from all parts of Armenia: Deurtyol, Hadjn, Zeytoun, and from other places. They had brought the Armenians and assembled them there.
We remained there under the sun. They took all to Der-Zor. My grandfather, who was with us, did not go because his son, that is my father, was a soldier in the Turkish army. This way, we were freed from Der-Zor. We were then taken to Homs. An order was issued by the government “Poison the dogs.” It meant to say: destroy the Armenians. However, Djemal pasha, the prefect of Adana, protected us. He ordered that the real dogs of the streets be poisoned and saved the Armenians from death, but told them to change their names… It was said that when a baby, Djemal pasha had suckled an Armenian woman’s milk and that was why he sympathized with the Armenians. He then issued an order to change our names. One person became Shukry, the other Ahmad, yet another was named Hussein. He changed the names of the women and girls for their safety.
In this way, we remained Armenian. They told us that we would be taken to Aleppo, but we were not. We remained in Homs. There were many people there from everywhere. The sun was very hot. People had taken off the quilt cases and had pitched something like a tent into which they entered. It was extremely hot. There was no water. If you spat, the saliva would not reach the ground. I had a small sister. Her name was Vardouhi. She used to cry; she wanted grapes. My mother was a beautiful woman. She began beating her breast with her hands and cry: “Our vines were broken under the weight of grapes. Now my child wants grapes, I cannot give this to her.”
Then my small sister needed water, there was no water either. The poor one died in mother’s arms, saying, ‘Water, water’. Together with grandpa, we dug the earth a little, put her in there and went on.
We reached a place and that night remained there among the stones and rocks. Among us there were a few sick, old, blind, lame men; the rest were women and children. Suddenly, the Turks arrived to plunder us. My grandpa died there…
I remember, at night there was no place to sleep. Mother slept on the ground, I and my sister, Khatoun, sitting near mother, braided her hair. A woman passed, looked at us and said: “Why, poor darlings, they don’t know their mother has died…” We were children, how could we know that our only mother was no more?
An acquaintance of ours, Markar’s wife, made needlework and sold it to the Arabs. An Arab woman told her that she wanted a little girl to help her. That Armenian woman said to me: “Come, let me take you to the house of an Arab woman.” I went with her. She was a rich and very kind woman: that Arab, if she has died, let there be homage to her soul. She was a dressmaker. Rich women came and went: they used to drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and I brought water from far away with a water-jug. I used to spin wool… What was my age at that time? Five or six years old. I stayed there for four years.
Later, when the Germans left Homs and the Turks were defeated, the English and the French came. One day, I was by the well, the water-jug in my hand. A Greek priest came up and asked me in Arabic: “My girl, are you Armenian?”
I said: “By language I’m Islam, by heart I’m an Armenian.”
He said: “Hurry up, come, let me take you to your folks.”
I took the water-jug home, took off my shoes, in order not to be heard, slowly went out of the house and followed the priest. Thanks be to God. The priest took me to the orphanage in the Roman District where there were many orphans. There I found my sister Khatoun: we were very happy. But I had forgotten to speak Armenian, I spoke only Arabic. I had forgotten our language…
Verjine Svazlian. The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eyewitness Survivors. Yerevan: “Gitoutyoun” Publishing House of NAS RA, 2011, testimony 294, pp. 487-488.